One Sunday evening in 1946, Stanley Backer and his friend, Corky, spotted two young girls on their way to the movie theater. Stopping to ask if they would like to go for a ride in his convertible Ford Model A, Stan’s eye was already on JoAnn, as he had seen her many times selling popcorn at the theater.

After a movie and a spin around town, Stan drove the others home before spending the rest of the evening with JoAnn, his future love, on her front porch swing. The time passed quickly into the night, and after a good-night kiss, Stan saw fireworks. He gave her a quarter and said, “save this until we get enough for a marriage license.” They were $1.75 away from a lifetime of happiness.

At age 17, Stan wrote a letter to JoAnn’s father successfully asking for his 15-year-old daughter’s hand. He then approached Father Dooley at the church only to be encouraged to wait a few years. True love waits but youth cannot, so Stan and JoAnn went down to the local magistrate and tied the knot legally. Much to Stan’s surprise, JoAnn had taken Catechism classes without his knowledge and one day invited him to accompany her to Mass. So, back to Father Dooley, they went for a church marriage and ceremony.

Stan worked for the Ford Motor Company for many years before opening his own Gulf service station in pursuit of the American Dream. Growing tired of shoveling snow, he jumped at the chance to “go west” when his brother-in-law offered him a job in California. Heading west on Route 66, he drove all the way from Missouri to New Mexico without even stopping – afraid he might get “cold feet.” He knew this was the opportunity for which he and JoAnn had been waiting.

Just six weeks later, JoAnn piled their four children into the back of their 1953 Buick and drove clear across the country to build their new life together. The kids grew and graduated and went on stan-joann-benchto find their own paths. After Stan retired, he and JoAnn went everywhere together in their original Model A, from Portland to Baja and places in between. After all the years, Stan and JoAnn had a formed a nightly ritual of reading before they went to sleep. One night, Stan heard a rumbling sound coming from JoAnn. Stan called 911 and discovered that JoAnn had a stroke. She was treated at the hospital and began therapy.


Their life had now changed. Stan, for the first time in his marriage, was now running the household and providing all the day-to-day care JoAnn needed including cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Stan enjoyed doting on JoAnn, happily rolling her hair in curlers, giving manicures and pedicures, bathing and meeting her personal needs, as well. Stan was by JoAnn’s side over the next four years and felt it was a privilege to care for his cherished wife.

When VNA began its services, it brought great relief to Stan’s efforts as her caregiver. With the love and care of the VNA hospice team, Stan was given the opportunity to attend to the most important thing in his entire life – loving JoAnn. Stan and JoAnn spent the rest of their time together at home. Every night Stan pulled his bed next to JoAnn’s hospital bed to fall asleep holding her hand.